When Amy Heinz rescued 19-pound Garrett from a raggedy shelter in Kansas, he was hours away from being euthanized.
“He was at the shelter, just sitting there with a broken pelvis not getting any care,” she said.
She brought him to her shelter in Desoto, A Heinz 57 Pet Rescue, and then sent him to a foster home to regain the rest of his strength. On his first day there, he slipped his collar on a walk and was gone.
Heinz wasn’t contacted until that night.
“If you can get out there immediately," she said, "you have a good chance of seeing where he went. But the next step is to just paper the area with fliers, which we did.”
The fliers brought calls right away. Garrett was seen near the Merle Hay Cemetery, then he headed north. Someone saw him near the skating rink on Meredith, then at Hyperion Golf Club.
Heinz searched Camp Dodge and got reports from as far north as the Mile Long Bridge.
She was determined.
“From the minute I tell a shelter that I will take a dog, I am responsible for that dog,” Heinz said.
By then the snowstorm and bitter cold had hit…it seemed Garrett’s long road ended near Saylorville.
“The last place that anybody spotted him was in a corn field up there. And then we didn’t hear anything for almost a month.”
Rescue volunteers maintained a ray of hope. After all, Garrett, had so far stayed alive for three months on his own.
“He knew where to find food, obviously, where to find shelter," said A Heinz 57 volunteer, Sue Strome. "I don’t know, maybe he did that in his life before he ended up in that shelter in Kansas.”
Two weeks ago, Linda Fetters looked out her front window.
“I knew that was him,” Fetters said.
She’d seen one of the fliers. She called Heinz.
“I called Sue and I said ‘Somebody thinks Garrett’s in Pleasant Hill,” Heinz said, smiling.
Fetters followed his tracks through the snow…along fence lines and through parking lots and yards.
“There were two boys and they were standing by the front door and I said, ‘Have you seen a little scruffy looking dog?’ And they said, ‘You just missed him! He’s ten minutes ahead of you!’” said Fetters.
Over the next ten days, Fetters and Sue Strome would search for Garrett. They would even catch sight of him from time to time. But he wouldn't come when called, and they couldn’t catch him.
"When dogs are on their own like that," Heinz said, "they get into a crazy mindset where they’re just surviving.”
They set box traps along his routes. They caught lots of things.
"We caught a cat, and then another cat, and then a possum…big possum,” Fetters laughed.
But never Garrett.
“It was getting very hard to sleep at night!” said Strome.
Last Friday, Fetters left the trap out all night. She checked it at 6 am.
“I hear this little growl and it didn’t sound like a coon," she said, "and so I bent over and I was like ‘Well, hello!’ and he was like ‘Where've you been?’”
Over four-and-a-half months in an Iowa winter, Garrett had survived on road kill…crossing from the northwest corner of the metro to its far east side. Fetters decided immediately to keep him. An incredible journey had ended.
“I think Linda is his angel," Strome said, "and it was just a matter of time for him to get over here.”
No one knows why he did it, or how he pulled it off. Garrett’s road ended at the home he’s never had.
Maybe that's all that really matters.